Walking the streets of Yangon, there is an unmistakable smell of change in the air. As you work your way through the hazy smoke and clattering utensils of the street food vendors mixing local Burmese delicacies while chewing on Beetle nuts, you see the smiling face of the bus ticket collector, the direct gaze of the elderly woman arranging her mango stand, and the open embrace of the little girl pulling you over to see a treasured T-shirt that she thinks you can not refuse. Back at her stall, swaying in all its glory is the image of President Obama shadowing the Burmese freedom movement hero and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi with large letters OBURMA above it.
Burma, or Myanmar as it has been known since 1989, is a country of 63 million people which provides the test case for the current administration’s “Pivot to Asia policy”. Now the people of Myanmar get to ask the question that those in the emerging nations of Middle East, Africa, and South America have asked before them: “Does America have the will and resources to help complete its commitment towards a democratic and free Myanmar?”
The stakes are high as Myanmar enjoys a privileged geopolitical position wedged between China and India which together comprise a third of the world’s population and recent consistent growth engines.
Although most of the dialogue is taking place in the urban centers, Myanmar’s real change has to come from the rural areas. Myanmar is no different than most of the emerging world’s economies in that it may become a victim of its own success. As port cities like Dawei become major regional transit points for countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, Myanmar will find itself building a rapid over-utilized road system that can bring cheap labor to the major port cities. This will invariably lead to an increasing incidence of trauma from over utilization of undeveloped roads and overpopulated minivans and motorbikes. With increasing need for an industrialized labor force, untrained workers will join working conditions with inadequate management and safety checks as demonstrated in the recent Bangladesh garment factory disaster at Rana Plaza. Read Full Article on Huffington Post